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Language tools that help people with their writing are now usually
included in today's word
processors. Although these various tools provide increasing support to
native speakers of a
language, they are much less useful to non-native speakers who are
writing in their second
language (e.g. French speakers writing in English). Real errors may
go undetected and
potential errors or non-errors that are flagged by the system may
be taken to be genuine errors
by the non-native speaker. In this paper, we present the prototype of
an English writing tool
which is aimed at helping speakers of French write in English. We first
discuss the kind of
problems non-native speakers have when writing in a second language. We
then explain how
we collected a corpus of errors which we used to build a typology of
errors needed in the
various stages of the project. This is followed by an overview of the
prototype which contains
a number of writing aids (dictionaries, on-line grammar helps, verb
conjugator, etc.) and two
checking tools: a problem word highlighter which lists all the
potentially difficult words that
cannot be dealt with correctly by the system (false friends, confusions,
and a grammar
checker which detects and corrects morphological and syntactic errors.
describe in detail
the automata formalism we use to extract linguistic information, test
and detect and correct errors. Finally, we present a first evaluation of
the correction capacity
of our grammar checker as compared to that of commercially available systems.
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